Thursday, October 15, 2020

Clapton is God

Eric Clapton is one of the great rock guitarists. One of those artists who is so totally dedicated to his craft that in a career that now spends 55 years, he’s never lost his dedication to learning and growing.

Clapton has the nickname Slowhand, and many are under the misconception that, while Clapton is undoubtedly one of the greats in the history of rock music, he plays slowly and methodically. That is not the basis for the nickname. Instead, Clapton when with the Yardbirds, who he joined in 1963 alongside Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, would make the audience wait should a guitar string break during a show. The audience would start a slow handclap making Eric's restringing of his guitar a part of the show, hence "Slowhand."

Then there's the "Clapton is God" thing, which inspired the famous photograph of a dog doing his business on the wall where the epithet was painted. Clapton hated that. He said he never thought himself the greatest guitar player in the world. He only wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world.

From the Yardbirds, Clapton moved on to John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and then of course to Cream with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, whose 1967 album Disraeli Gears is one of my top 10 rock albums.

After Cream, another supergroup was formed with Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech from Family. That band was called Blind Faith who debuted the act before 100,000 people in London’s Hyde Park in June 1969 playing the megahit "Can't Find My Way Home."

But Clapton was the consummate artist and didn’t like being in the spotlight, and so, in the summer of 1969, he toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. Delaney and Bonnie were kind of like Ringo Starr today, who’s All-star Band is ever-changing; everyone wanting to play with Ringo. Clapton was content to play his guitar quietly off to the side.

But that wasn’t all. He was also in the Plastic Ono Band and, of course, played guitar on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Clapton with the Delaney and Bonnie band were the session musicians for Harrison's All Things Must Pass. This was a busy guy.

51 years ago, the anonymity afforded him with Delaney and Bonnie led to his new project with Bonnie Bramlett as his Muse, Derek and the Dominos, and the LP with Clapton's most famous song “Layla,” one of the greatest singles ever released.

But things change quickly in the rock world. 50 years ago, less than a year after escaping into Delaney and Bonnie, Clapton was going through a miserable time emotionally and physically, addicted to heroin, cocaine and Jack. Not to mention being head over heals in love with his best friend's wife. 

It was in 1970 as well that Clapton teamed up with the same band that back Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Bobby Whitlock (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), and Jim Gordon (drums) to form a band that until the night of their first gig in June, didn't even have a name, or two occasional member, Duane Allman (who would play guitar on "Layla") and Dave Mason.

Both "Layla" and "Bell Bottom Blues" were direct tributes/love sonnets to Patty Boyd.

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